Posts Tagged: Jerry Powell
Photographers never tire of capturing images of ladybugs, aka lady beetles.
First of all, they're beneficial insects. You know when you photograph them that they're about to scoot, crawl or fly off to grab a tasty lunch--an all-you-can-eat aphid buffet.
Second, they're colorful. They brighten a garden, standing out like red Corvettes on a freeway.
Third, they're among the most recognizable of insects. Halloween costume companies relish in creating polka-dotted attire for the 5-and-under set. Nobody will ask "What are you supposed to be?"
Fourth, they're quite common. California alone has some 125 species of Coccinellids.
Worldwide, there are some 5000 described species.
Not too many people know, however, that many species in the family Coccinellidae secrete a nasty fluid. As UC Berkeley retired entomologist Jerry Powell writes in his book, California Insects, "...when disturbed, many species secrete a bitter, amber-colored fluid that is believed to have poisonous effects on vertebrates..."
Indeed, their red and black coloring warns "Leave me alone!"
Ladybug, aka lady beetle, searching for aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The ladybug's coloring warns "Leave me alone!" (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A ladybug on the prowl. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Collembola! Watch the springtails spring!
Over the last several days, Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of Caifornia, Davis, has patrolled a UC Davis sidewalk checking out a huge volume of springtails.
"Literally millions of little buff-colored springtails," he related Monday, "have been swarming for the past three days on the sidewalk and adjacent strip under the oak trees on the east side of Howard Way, about halfway between the parking garage and Russell Boulevard, mostly around 7 to 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. I've never seen such numbers, except for the snow springtails in winter in upstate New York."
I trekked over to Howard Way at 7 a.m. today and it took awhile to find these little buff-colored organisms. That's because they're oh, so tiny! They're less than six millimeters long--that's 0.24 inches in length. And they move fast.
Obviously, Art Shapiro has the eyes of an eagle. I don't.
Springtails (order Collembola) are those primitive, wingless six-legged critters you find in soil, leaf litter, decaying wood and other damp places. Basically, they're known for working the soil. However, some springtails, such as Sminthurus viridis, are agricultural crop pests.
Why are they called springtails? Retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell writes in California Insects (a University of California Press book co-authored by entomologist Charles Hogue): "Most springtails are readily recognizable by a forked, tail-like appendage (furcula) which arises toward the rear of the abdomen and which the insect snaps against the substratum, springing itself into the air."
California has about 130 species that spring themselves into the air.
Frankly, it's a wonder anyone can see them, springing or not springing.
A springtail (look to the right of "of") next to a penny. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The springtail is less than 6 millimeters long. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Site of the springtail sightings on Howard Way, looking toward Russell Boulevard on UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Have you ever stopped to admire a blossom and seen forceps protruding?
We were walking near Mrak Hall, UC Davis, on a hot summery afternoon and spotted a tell-tale sign: abdominal forceps, aka pinchers or pincers.
In a male earwig, the forceps are more widely spaced.
The most abundant earwig in California is the European eartwig, Forficula auricularia (family Forficulidae), according to entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their book, California Insects. However, it was not known in the state until 1923.
They describe the adult as about 12 to 22mm long, mostly brown with pale forewings and antennae. "The immatures and adults feed on a wide variety of substances, from flowers and green foliage near the ground to living and dead insects, including aphids."
This one seemed to be escaping from the heat.
Tell-tale sign of an earwig. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Earwig exposed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Some call them "soldier beetles."
Some call them "leather-winged beetles."
Some call them "Cantharids" (family Cantharidae).
Whatever you call them, be sure to welcome them to your garden. They eat aphids, lots of aphids. Like the good soldiers they are, they're ready to do battle.
We spotted five or six of them munching on aphids on our year-old plum tree.
Soldier beetles have a large thoracic shield, long threadlike antennae and beady little eyes.
According to retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley, there are about 100 species of them in California.
Most of them, according to the Jerry Powell-Charles Hogue book, California Insects, are "similar in appearance, red or orange with gray, black or brown wing covers."
Ready for Flight
LBAM is back in the news.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced Aug. 29 that it has established a 19-square-mile quarantine straddling portions of two counties after the light brown apple moth (LBAM) was found July 23 in Napa County and Aug. 10 in Sonoma County.
That's bad news all around.
As a leafrolling caterpillar, the light brown apple moth loves grapes. And just about everything else from A to Z: apple, apricot, beans, caneberries (blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, raspberry), cabbage, camellia, chrysanthemum, citrus, clover, cole crops, eucalyptus, jasmine, kiwifruit, peach, pear, persimmon, plantain, pumpkin, strawberry, tomato, rose and zea mays (corn).
It's a herbivorous generalist.
When I attended the Northern California Entomology Society meeting in May of last year, Alameda County acting ag commissioner Gregory Gee commented about its polyphagous nature: "It even likes pine trees."
Pine trees! Even!
Fact is, Gee said, the pest (Epiphyas postvittana) likes other landscape trees, too, including oak, willow, walnut, poplar, cottonwood and alder.
A native of Australia, LBAM has been found in a dozen counties since retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell, a moth taxonomist, first detected the pest in his Berkeley backyard on July 19, 2006.
Controversy swirls over how long the pest has actually been in California and how to battle it. UC Davis entomologist James R. Carey says it's probably been here for years--maybe even decades. Carey doubts that the foreign invader can be eradicated.
But there's no controversy about its appetite.
UC Davis entomologist Frank Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist who researches tree crops, small fruits, vegetables and invasive species, said LBAM's appetite spans 250 hosts--and the spectrum of known hosts continues to grow.
Meanwhile, the moth even has its own song, a no-spray message played by KGO Radio as bumper music. The tune, "Ain't No Moths on Me," written and performed by the Bay Area group, Charity and the JAMband, is as catchy as the Muhammad Ali quote, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
LBAM has no stinger but it definitely stings.
A USDA study indicates that, if California becomes generally infested, the moth could cause billions of dollars in crop damage annually. Additionally, it would hinder export opportunities and interstate commerce due to quarantine restrictions, as demonstrated by the quarantines already enacted by Canada and Mexico. California agricultural exports to the two countries totaled more than $2.4 billion in 2006. Source: CDFA press release.
Light brown apple moth, female
Light brown apple moth, male
Larva of the light brown apple moth